By Monica, a member of DignityUSA in Dallas/Ft. Worth area, winner of DignityUSA’s Retreat Scholarship
On July 24, 2008, a group of young adults from Call To Action (CTA) landed in New Orleans to spend three days reflecting and rediscovering “home.” This CTA Next Generation retreat entitled, “FINDING HOME IN A BROKEN WORLD: A Retreat on Environmental Racism for Seekers of Spirituality and Justice,” gave each of us a bit of rope to hold onto in the blizzard of apathy, neglect and injustice we find swirling around us today.
Several of us in the group identified as LGBT persons, and I was fortunate to receive a scholarship from DignityUSA in order to attend. It is hard to put into words what it meant to me to gather with other committed Catholics who are praying and working for change within our unjust systems of church and society. This retreat was an opportunity to be among my tribe — those who share God’s preferential option for those on the margins. It has given me a chance to bear witness to the stories of survival and resilience among people of New Orleans, as well as witnessing the dehumanizing effects of racism and classism that continue to play a part in the recovery efforts. This trip was also an act of defiance to the voices who have claimed that this natural disaster was a punishment from God for our supposed “sexual deviance.”
We spent one day removing debris from an eldery woman’s home. She, like so many who are still displaced, is a woman of grit and determination who simply lacked the resources or the people power to do more to get herself back into her home. It was utterly disheartening to witness what little had been done throughout the city a full three years after Katrina. While we did what we could to help her, we recognized that the need to “do something” was also an invitation to look to our own backyards. The intersection of race and class as a nexus of injustice is more apparent in New Orleans than just about anywhere else in the country, especially post-Katrina. But it exists in my city too as I’m sure it does in yours. I was left with the lingering question, “What is the Lower 9th Ward of my own community and what am I doing about it?”
In our broken world, we are called by our universally loving God to find and create home where we can. We who have known rejection by “family of origin” are getting pretty good at creating home and family for ourselves. The challenge now is to extend that same sense of home — the rope of security strung out to the barn — to those most in need of community and healing. Let us not let any more souls wander off into this blizzard alone.